Talk about tension. It was so thick at the Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Committee's Grand Marshal Ball that guests were hard put to swallow their Tournedos of Beef Henry IV. Who, they were aching to know, would be named grand marshal and get to ride along with his wife in the lead yacht in the committee's 1987 Christmas Boat Parade? Would it be George Chase, spouse of Huntington Harbour Philharmonic board chairman Joanna Chase? Or Robert Clouse, husband of former board chairman Sandra Clouse? Or Court Prowell, husband of former boat parade chairman Missy Prowell?
After poking at their Baked Alaska, guests rose to their feet in the ballroom of the Anaheim Hilton on Saturday night, champagne glasses poised for the announcement: "George Chase!" proclaimed outgoing grand marshal Michael Stitzinger. Clink went the champagne glasses. Slosh went the bubbly. Splash went the tears down Joanna Chase's cheeks.
Grand marshals are serious business for the Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Committee. They lead the parade that annually launches the committee's Symphony of Lights, a benefit that brought $95,000 to the Orange County Philharmonic in 1985 (1986 proceeds will be announced in April). Besides the two-night parade, in which entrants compete for theme trophies, the Symphony of Lights includes a Cruise of Lights, a series of boat tours through Harbour waterways, where paying passengers view homes decorated with Christmas lights. Theme trophies are also awarded to homes.
"You have to work your way up to grand marshal," said Stitzinger during dinner. "To be even able to toss your hat in the ring, you have to have demonstrated an enthusiasm that has gotten you the chance to be a lieutenant--a parade escort-boat captain.
"And it's a real privilege to be asked to do that. But it's hard work. You're out there on the water freezing your buns off. . . . After you've done that for a few years, you might get asked to be a night captain or parade captain. And then after that, you have the right to run for grand marshal during the next five years."
Stitzinger explained that only past parade captains and night captains, along with past grand marshals, could vote for grand marshal.
Before his name was announced, Chase said he was "nervous, nervous, nervous. . . . I'd have to liken it to having a baby."
Joanna Chase, breathtaking in a bead-smothered Oscar de La Renta, confessed she was also on edge "because I have to get up there and give a speech and . . . I'm excited for George." Stitzinger said the title brings social clout both to the man selected and his wife. "The grand marshal and his wife carry a lot of power. Theoretically, because of his past accomplishments, he has the capability of becoming the leader of the (social) pack. And his wife, because she has worked hard for the committee, becomes what the other ladies like to see in a leader."
After the ceremonies, the nearly 500 guests danced to the Home Savings and Loan Band.
Sue Hodgson was ball chairman. She was assisted by Churee Kakimoto. Also attending were Shirley Stitzinger (Michael's wife), Bill Kakimoto (Churee's husband) and Orange County Supervisor Harriett Wieder and husband Irv, Huntington Harbour residents. Past grand marshals in attendance were Pat Kelley, Carl Agliozzo, Bob Watson, Dick Frandsen, Hank Schaffner, Dave Dorsey, Ralph Moss, Louis Zimmerman, Gabe Felix and By Dod, who with wife Jane, originated the Cruise of Lights 24 years ago.
Lieutenants and captains in attendance included Mark Weiss, Paul Greenwald, Kevin Ivey, Gordon Pickett, Ted Johnson, Tom Stroud, Austin Snarr, George Maguire, John Foote, Steve Karo, Jack Rowen, Barry Bauman and Ken Flavia. Night captains included Leon Statler and John Paugh.